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In 1996, the Nationalgalerie first presented the Sammlung Berggruen (Berggruen Collection) in the western Stüler building opposite Schloss Charlottenburg. With an impressive collection of works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Alberto Giacometti, the Museum Berggruen is one of the most important sites of modern art in Berlin today.
The collection was started by the revered art dealer and collector Heinz Berggruen (1914-2007) after whom it is named. Born in the Berlin district of Wilmersdorf, Berggruen fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and emigrated to the USA. He first worked there as a freelance journalist reporting on art and culture and in 1939 was employed by the San Francisco Museum of Art. When the war finally ended, he founded a gallery in Paris that represented many artists whose works Berggruen began to collect privately. He also developed close friendships with many of these artists. Over four decades working in this area, he rose to become one of the leading art dealers of his time, especially known for his collection of drawings and prints by Pablo Picasso. In 1980, Berggruen closed his gallery so that he could dedicate himself solely to his art collection. He concentrated primarily on those artists whose works now form the heart of the collection at the Museum Berggruen.
With more than 120 works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the Sammlung Berggruen offers a broad insight into the artist's entire oeuvre and artistic development. Beginning with a study from 1897, when Picasso was just sixteen, to works from his Blue and Rose periods, his 'Au café-concert' from 1902 and the 'Seated Harlequin' from 1905, as well as a series of works from his Cubist period, including 'Houses on the Hill (Horta de Ebro)' from 1909, and later works such as 'Matador with Nude' from 1970.
Another major focus of the collection is the artist Paul Klee (1879-1940). The museum now has 70 of his artworks on display. These include mysterious, lyrical drawings like 'Galgenhumor' and 'Den Fischen läuten', both from 1919, which evoke Klee's early affinity to Symbolism, as well as studies of colour and form such as 'transparent - perspectivisch gefügt (I)' from 1921 and 'Nekropolis' from 1929, which stem from his time as a teacher at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Works such as 'Ein Kinderspiel' (1939) and 'Der Teppich' from 1940, a watercolour painted shortly before he died, exemplify Klee's later body of work.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) are represented in the Museum Berggruen mostly with examples of works from their late periods, including the famous paper cut-out 'Nude Skipping Rope' from 1952 by Matisse, and Giacometti's 'Large Standing Woman III' from 1960. The museum also has works by Georges Braque, Henri Laurens, Paul Cézanne, and a selection of African sculptures on display.